Surfing TV channels the other night I stumbled across a ministry program (using the term ministry loosely). The host was going on and on about praying healing into your life. This was described in terms of illness being opposed to the Christian’s nature. More was said about healing being deserved and how health was a sign of victorious living. I was not surprised by the health and prosperity teaching, but by the boasting of the host about how often she had spoken a word of faith and has had illness left her. I wondered if she was going to do the same the rest of her life. What would she do about aging? Is there a rebuke for that, being the decay of the body is also a sign of the fall that we are supposedly free from; according to her? I began to wonder if she had thought about death as a type of physical illness due to sin. Was there a Christian rebuke of death, warding off the final penalty of sin? Maybe if close to death, she could have it pre-recorded and just hit the play icon in time? Okay now I’m being silly. But isn’t the whole thing kind of silly?
We are called to pray to God and carry our cares and concerns to Him (Psalm62:8; Matthew 7:7-8). We can pray about healing and the removal of our physical infirmities (2 Cor. 12:8). But there is nothing in Scripture that says we will, must, and somehow deserve the removal of our ailments. Paul had to live with his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:9). Timothy lived on with some persistent stomach issue (1 Timothy 5:23). So the removal of the problems we have is not anything automatic. We may and should request their removal, but we should also have humility of mind to accept the bad with the good. When God says no, He must have a good reason. He sustains us from day to day anyway, so therefore we have more to boast about in our weaknesses than we do when we are healthy and full of our own strength.
An overly literal reading of Mark 11:24 usually comes up in discussions like this. Whereas it states:
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
So the health and prosperity promoters exclaim, “See, the Bible supports our view.” Yet no one verse sets forth a complete doctrine. The doctrine of pray encompasses all of Scripture. From other places we learn that we must ask correctly (James 4:3) and for things that are according to God’s will (Matthew 6:10), to be content to get a “no” response (Job 1:21; 2 Cor. 12:10), and to remember we are asking according to His name (Luke 11:2). All of these things set up the condition and overarching context of how we are to understand this passage collectively. So it is not the power of positive thinking that makes our prayers a reality, but a conforming of our prayer life to the will of God, whose ultimate will always comes to pass.